A U.S. airstrike has killed Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader and co-founder of al-Shabab, an al Qaeda wing in Somalia, the White House said Friday. Godane has led the group since 2008, and he masterminded a number of attacks on civilians, including the 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed 63 people.
An al-Shabab Twitter account reportedly confirmed Godane’s death, as well as the Pentagon and the Somali prime minister. Godane was traveling in a convoy in south-central Somalia on Monday when he was hit by the airstrike.
White House statement confirms the death of al-Shabab leader Ahmed Godane in a U.S. airstrike in Somalia pic.twitter.com/phxrviOfDz
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) September 5, 2014
"We have confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of al-Shabab, has been killed," Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement Friday. "The U.S. military undertook operations against Godane on Sept. 1, which led to his death. Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabab. The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations."
Godane was born in northern Somalia and was a veteran of the jihadi campaign in Afghanistan. He aspired to bring al-Shabab to the international stage, which caused tension with fellow leaders at times. He headed al-Shabab’s fight against the U.S.-backed Somali government, particularly in the capital Mogadishu, which it controlled from 2006 to 2011. Al-Shabab was driven out by an African Union peacekeeping force and has since refocused its control on rural areas outside the capital.
The U.S. designated al-Shabab a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2008.